Dressing for Interview Success

Dr. Marilyn M. Helms, Dean, DSC Wright School of Business

Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and indicates you are someone who wants a JOB.

 Your attire should be described as being well-fitting and appropriate, but it should not take center stage or be memorable. Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment and shows respect to the person(s) you meet.  When in doubt, always dress more professionally than might be required for the actual job duties. Even if you know employees dress casually (often termed “business casual”) on the job, you should dress in traditional interview (board room) attire unless you HAVE BEEN specifically directed otherwise by the employer or their human resources department.

In the current economy stakes are higher than usual. Make sure you pay attention to the small details of your attire. Risk-taking has a bad name and employers do not want to see it exhibited in your wardrobe choices. Employers are looking for committed serious professionals who will become a valuable asset to their team. By wearing appropriate business dress, you are communicating to potential employers that you take both the interview and the resulting job seriously. In uncertain times people lean toward traditional ways and dress. The buzzwords for interview dress are conservative and traditional.

Never confuse an interview or business function with a social event. Do not dress for a party or date. Be sure to allow time for any needed alterations to your interview clothing. My favorite in Dalton is Choi’s Alterations (300 W. Emery Street, Suite 104, 706-277-7530, M-F 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Consider trying on all your interview clothes the week before the interview to get an idea of the “big picture,” particularly if you are not in the habit of wearing professional business attire. You will feel less awkward on the interview day itself.  If you are still uncertain about your choices, have a trusted faculty member or business professional critique your outfit.  Always follow these suggestions . . .

Item Yes No
Suit Jackets that fit your back securely; fit in the shoulders (not too narrow or not extending past your shoulders); is the correct length – you should be able to cup your fingers over the end of the jacket when your arms are hanging from the sides.  Sleeve lengths should not hide your hands (sleeve length should fall ½ inch below wrist)
Good quality fabrics – linen, wool, cotton, and silk
Matched blazer and pants in neutral colors
Men – navy or deep gray or very subtle pinstripes
Women – navy, deep gray, brown or black (pants or skirt are acceptable)
Wear the jacket during the entire interview – typically buttoned while standing and unbuttoned while seated
Avoid double-breasted suits
Men – avoid three-button suits
Women – avoid trendy styles, no big shoulder pads, no shiny buttons or lots of trim and detail
Men – brown suits are not popular in the South 
Shiny black suits are only worn by funeral home staff
All – no non-traditional colors (green, purple, pastels white)
All – no loose buttons
Skirts (women) To the knee or slightly below No ankle length or floor length skirts
No long slits at the sides or back
No visible slip (practice sitting and check the look)
No visible knee-high hose
Not too tight
No bare legs – wear hose
Pants (all) Match the fabric and color of your coat
Creased and tailored to fit
Neither tight nor baggy – alterations may be required
Should break over the top of your shoes and drop to the back of your heels
Women – pants are good for site visits
No tight pants with gaping pockets (have them stitched down)
No loose or flowing pants
Not too long, not too short
Women – no capris, leggings, or cropped pants
Hose (women) Skin-tone or neutral color
Hose (with skirts)
Knee-hi hose (with pants) or trouser socks
No opaque or patterned hose 
No white hose – unless the hospital where you work requires them
No bare legs
Socks (men) Dark, mid-calf
Quality trouser socks
No white or tan socks
No athletic or ankle socks
No skin should show when you cross your legs
Shirts Men, usually white, 100% oxford or pinpoint cotton
Men – wear only long-sleeve shirts under suits
Button-up shirt or short-sleeve or sleeveless blouse or shell.  Don’t remove your jacket during the interview
Coordinates with suit  White is always safe or light colors
Avoid the dark shirt “mafia look”
No turtle-necks for men or frayed collars on dress shirts
No bright, bold, distracting patterns
Women check that blouse buttons have no gaps – buy a larger size or use fabric tape to close
No see-through materials
Avoid lots of lace, ruffles, etc.
No low cut, revealing tops
No cleavage should be seen – purchase a larger shirt, add snaps, or use fabric tape
Tie (men) or Scarves (women) Conservative color and pattern
Coordinates with suit and shirt
Length should be to the top of your belt
Scarves should be neat and at the neck or tucked into the blazer
No bold colors or patterns
No bow-ties
No college logos or team logos
No cartoon characters
No long dangling scarves
Fit Clothes should fit well and be altered and tailored for you No baggy clothes
No revealing clothes (cover arms, chest, chest hair and stomach, cleavage, at all times)
Belt Match your shoes
Black or brown
No big buckles, bold, large belts, no dangling chain belts
No worn or frayed belts
Shoes Dark colors, closed heel and closed toe, conservative heel
Polished with clean heels and soles
Men – black lace-up styles or wingtips
Women – conservative black or navy pumps less than 2” heels
No scruffy shoes
No open toe or open back (backless) shoes, no sandals or flip flops
No bold color or texture shoes
No noisy shoes
Dirt or mud on your heels, run down heels
No sandals, loafers, boat shoes, athletic shoes
No stilettos or platform heels, no sandals or backless shoes
Don’t show your toes
Purse (women) Small, coordinate with shoes in color and texture
Preferably good quality leather in black or brown
No large, trendy, printed oversized bags
Don’t take a purse and a briefcase
Briefcase/Portfolio (both) Professional, inconspicuous, and in good condition
Black or dark brown leather only
Women – Either a purse or briefcase but don’t carry both
Both – no messenger bags, no prints or fabric bags
Overcoat Only take/wear if necessary
Trench coat or raincoat
Good fabrics – wool, cashmere, or nylon
Tan or black only
No jean jackets, puffy jackets
No casual coats, hoodies, or fleece zip-ups
Ladies – No coats shorter than your skirt
Jewelry Women – stud earrings only, if any
Rings – only wedding band and/or college rings
Conservative watch
No excessive jewelry (watch and ring for men; watch, one ring, and stud earrings for women)
No facial piercings or tongue piercings
No cheap, trendy, costume jewelry
No dangling or jingling jewelry 
No bracelets
Men- No earrings
Women – no more than one traditional ear piercing
Hair Neat, professional
Out of face and eyes
Natural color
Fresh hair cut the week before 
Men – keep hair cut over the ears and short in the back
Neat, professional
Out of face and eyes
Natural color
Fresh haircut the week before 
Men – keep hair cut over the ears and short in the back
Body Hair None showing Trim bushy eyebrows
No ear hair; No nose hair
Women – pluck stray hairs on chin and face, be sure to shave legs (especially when wearing a skirt)   
Men – no facial hair, no hair showing over the shirt collar and tie, wear proper length socks so leg hair doesn’t show when you cross your legs
Make-up (women only) Professional, conservative, minimal
Muted earth tones for eye color and lips
No excessive make-up
No heavy eyeliner
No smoky eyes or make-up for a date or evening party
No fake eyelashes
No sparkling makeup
No bright red or shiny lipstick
Nails (Both) Clean, neatly trimmed
Have a professional manicure the day before
No long and/or dirty nails
Women – no fake nails or long tips
Nail Polish (women)
(no nail polish for men – buff to a shine, only)
Preferably none
Neutral, conservative color (clear, pale pink or pale tan)
Wild colors (bright reds and pinks, black, blue, green, etc.) 
No neon colors or different colors on each nail
No chipped nail polish – if painted
No designs, glitter, themes or stones on nails
Scents/Fragrances No perfumes and cologne
Use sparingly if at all(Many people are allergic).  A growing number of professional offices have signage indicating they are “perfume or fragrance-free” offices
Men – go easy on the aftershave – omit if possible
Deodorant – choose a fragrance-free (unscented) antiperspirant.  Body Wash – unscented or powder scent
No odors in clothes.
No smelling like tobacco smoke (don’t smoke the day of the interview). Challenge yourself to quit smoking – most workplaces and parking areas are smoke-free and often insurance premiums are higher for smokers
No overpowering scents. You won’t need them if you are clean and your clothes are clean as well
Breath Schedule your teeth cleaning one week before.
Brush your teeth and use mouthwash
Finish a small breath mint just before the interview.
No bad breath
No chewing gum or smokeless tobacco in the interview
Do not eat anything (candy, sunflower seeds, etc.) during the interview
Tattoos Cover with clothing, bandage or make-up as necessary No visible tattoos
Details Clothes should be neat and clean, fit properly.
Dry clean all pieces of your outfit together so the colors match
No missing buttons.
No lint, pet hair, external tags and stitching (this includes stitching to hold vents, pockets, and the label stitched on the outside of your sleeves)
Accessories Portfolio (leather binder with notepad and pen)
Extra copies of your resume, samples of your work, business cards
No cell phones, I-pods, Blackberries, Palm Pilots, or any other ringing/ beeping technology.  
If you need any of the data in your phone be sure to set it to vibrate or turn off the ringer phone function
No ear phones in your ear
Ace the Interview Practice your personal pitch and be ready with a 2-3 minute pitch that tells your story.
Research the company then craft intelligent, informed questions.
Mine your resume- highlight your successes and accomplishments using the STAR method – describe the Situation, the Task, the Actions you took and the Result.
No cell phones, I-pods, Blackberries, Palm Pilots, or any other ringing/ beeping technology.  
If you need any of the data in your phone be sure to set it to vibrate or turn off the ringer phone function
No earphones in your ear
Car Washed and cleaned inside and out
Perhaps a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal folded on the passenger’s seat
No messy interior with trash, papers, clothing, packages, candy, drink cans, cigarettes, fast food bags, etc.
“Thank You” Notes Do send a written thank you note card immediately to everyone you talked with.
Keep it short and simple – “Dear Ms. Employer:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about the opening at Your Company.  The position seems exactly suited to my skills and interests.  I look forward to talking with you further.  Sincerely, Your Name”
Don’t just send an e-mail.  Send the e-mail thank you immediately then mail the card the next day.
Don’t write the same note to each person – they will compare notes.
Dining with Prospective Employer Order a meal that is simple and easy to eat that you have eaten before that always agrees with your stomach
Mirror what your host orders – get an appetizer or dessert if they do
Eat at the same rate as your dining companions. They will feel more in tune with you and this will eliminate awkward stretches when some are eating but others are not
Order a reasonably priced entree – not the most expensive on the menu – get a high end item only if your host specifically recommends it
Be prepared for light conversation and small talk – read through several newspapers beforehand so you are ready to discuss current events – also check if there is anything new at guest’s company or industry sector  – check on-line or at the library
Order food that’s challenging to eat – spaghetti, crab legs, salads
Place a complex order – “leave off the dressing, put that on the side, etc.” – makes you seem difficult to please
Say “take this back” – the meeting is more important than the meal – makes you look picky and difficult
Don’t eat someone else’s bread (remember BMW = bread, meal, water. Your bread is always on your left)
Once you have the job and if you are told the dress code is “Business Casual” Business casual should still look professional and clothes should be conservative and clean and pressed.
Women and Men: black or navy or tan slacks and a white dress shirt or company logo polo shirt with a collar.
Women:  nice blouse and blazer. Women tend to look a bit more professional with a blazer and you want to be ready for the next promotion! A sweater over a shell top with a skirt in an appropriate length is another option. If you wear a dress opt for a knee length with sleeves or a sweater. 
Men:  You can also wear a tie but you don’t have to wear a blazer or sport coat with business casual (but you may choose to in the winter).  Consider a vest over a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater or sweater vest in winter.
Wear loafers or similar leather shoes or flats with closed heels and closed toes too. 
No jeans or torn or ripped clothing or t-shirts with logos or without a collar.
Women: Don’t wear sleeveless or low cut or very thin tops. No shorts or sundresses.
No sandals or sneakers.

Timeless Rules for Dress

  • Keep clothing understated – not flashy
  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
  • Represent your company professionally
  • Keep you clothes neat, clean, mended, ironed
  • Don’t reveal too much or send a sexual message with tight, sheer, or low-cut clothing – the key is too look authoritative and highly competent
  • Dress for the time of day – no evening clothes at work
  • Don’t be a victim of the current fashion at work – work clothes are NOT trendy.  They are traditional and an investment that should last several years

Local Alterations Needed?

Choi’s Alterations

300 W Emery St, Dalton, GA 30720

(706) 277-7530